I know, it seems at first glance to make no sense, if anything the concept must implode, after all, Judaism and Jewishness go hand in hand right?
I’ll try to explain in my favorite way, with an analogy.
In the 1800’s the town planners of London were getting concerned, London was growing at an alarming rate, the streets were too narrow, the distances too wide and the work force that made the machine of the city keep running were finding it more and more difficult to get in and out of the financial center. Many relied on Cabs, pulled by horses, the poor walked. A few trains ran from the outskirts into the ‘city of london’ (a small area within London itself) and these trains were usually over filled and chaotic. The choice was made to build a series of train routes ‘underground’ to make travel to the city center and out again possible. The London Underground, the first of it’s kind in the world, was born. Since then, the finest minds in the realms of engineering, city planing, architecture and ordinance have lent their talent and skill to building one of the most complicated and successful travel infrastructures of any City in the world today.
I know when I visit London that the fastest route between two points will be via the Train network. I know that. It’s a tried and tested system. A system that Londoners know like the back of their hands. They grow up with it. They might not be engineers, technicians, navies or rail network operatives but they know the Tube. They understand the do’s and don’t, they are aware of it’s evolution.
As a non-Jew seeking a pattern on which I can build a relationship with my Creator that involves physical routine and ritual, I don’t decide to take a spade and a compass and start digging. I look at what the finest minds have already set in place. My Creator chose a people to be a light to the nations. I look to that light as a sign of how I can navigate this journey in the smartest most efficient way possible. After all, they have been traveling this way for thousands of years.
Of course, getting on the train doesn’t make me the driver and visiting the station doesn’t make me a Londoner.. but there are seats available for those willing to journey towards the King of the Universe.
Most people’s first experiences of the London Tube are a little worrisome. It can be stressful, locating the entrance, buying the right ticket, getting to the right platform and usually when time is a premium and all the time being jostled and elbowed by the locals who know what they are doing.
Sometimes we ignore the map, ‘I know where I’m going’, only to get a little lost. Sometimes we are afraid to ask for fear of looking stupid or being abused. Sometimes we are so nervous we don’t even leave the house and try.
Judaism is a structure. Within it’s map are many routes, most are for the native born but there is room to maneuver if you are sojourning too. It’s something that can be used as a filter. An experienced guide to help you choose the best route.
I wasn’t at Sinai, as far as I know my family isn’t Jewish. The commandments given to Israel, the sons of Jacob, are not for my bloodline. But, as a human being who chooses to place my faith in the Master of the Universe, my life in the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, there are some areas of my life I have chosen to change, offerings and pledges, vows and promises that I have made because I want to bend my will, my life, in a way that reflects my acceptance of Him as my God and His Tanakh as my source of knowledge. I’m not obliged, but I offer.
My acceptance of Judaism as a practical approach and my inclusion of some areas of it in my life doesn’t make me a Jew. It simply makes me a non-Jew who lives his faith life through the filter of it.
Londoners sweep from train to platform, platform to train. I take care to ‘mind the gap’.